It’s as true in the landscape industry as it is in any other: without sales, you don’t have a business. A key goal for any landscape company that’s serious about planning for profitability is to excel not only in the work that you do but also in your ability to generate leads and win jobs.
Here are 12 key sales tips that can help your landscaping business to improve both your sales closing ratios and your bottom line.
1) Don’t drop the ball by not following up
Always follow up! Responding in a timely manner shows professionalism, and that the customer has your attention. Following up is critical not only to your sales success but also to your company’s reputation. Your follow-up process should be structured and could include emails, thank you cards, phone calls, and site visits. Keeping communication honest, open, and timely is an easy way to differentiate your sales process from your competition.
2) Execute weekly
You need to be able to execute week after week, closing sales regardless of the job’s size. You have to keep new work coming in constantly, even if that means generating your own leads. Hold a weekly sales meeting, and have each salesperson report on the following: sold projects, bid projects, follow-up, new business development, and year-to-date statistics.
3) Whenever possible, close sales on the spot
If you have the opportunity to close small jobs on the spot, make sure you do so. Be prepared with either an automated estimating system or a spreadsheet that you can use to quickly calculate a small quote accurately. That way, you’re more likely to walk away with a cheque in your hand rather than just another small lead to put on your enormous to-do list.
4) Be aware of what you do – and DON’T do – well
Establish what you do well, and what you don’t do well by analyzing your work and HONESTLY assessing what you’re producing. For example, if you’re really not that good at building decks, either get some training or stop offering to build them. Doing bad work gives you a bad reputation and is a headache for everyone involved. Do the work that you’re best at doing.
5) Understand what your customers really need
Understanding your customers’ needs and what kind of work they really want from you is very important. If you can connect with them and come to a mutual, positive understanding of what they’re looking for, the customer will feel more inclined to purchase from you. If you have ideas and input that you would like to add, start by setting the stage for your suggestions and recommendations; ask for the customers’ thoughts first, and then expand on them using your own creativity and unique skills. Be very careful not to tell the customer what they need or what they like; it’s their property and they’re the boss. The key is to ask the right questions when figuring out exactly what the customer is looking for. Questions could be grouped into the following categories: how the property will be used, the scope of work and budgets, customer likes and dislikes, and customer priorities.
6) Use a good sales pipeline tracking system
Managing your sales pipeline is very important for a successful sales team. Implementing a good system for organizing and prioritizing your leads will ensure that you don’t let any potential deals fall through the cracks or become less urgent to you. There’s nothing like an automated reminder to help keep clients on your radar, and to keep your company’s services on theirs.
7) Present winning proposals
A carefully-prepared, attractive-looking proposal is your best calling card, and a chance to demonstrate not only your great design ideas but also your professionalism. Think of it from the clients’ point of view: if they’re comparing proposals from two similar landscaping companies, chances are they’ll choose the one that shows impressive, hand-drawn quality, clear labels, plant photographs, attractive colors, subtle shadings and opacities, and 3D renderings. “Wow” is definitely the reaction you want to get when presenting your proposals. What you leave with/send to the customer should be a document containing the following information:
- an introductory statement
- a reduced copy of the plan
- a proposal, materials list and supporting documentation
- testimonials, certifications and insurance certificates
- company history and key employee bios.
8) Say “no” to lousy jobs!
Closing sales, but not seeing any real profit? Saying “no” to jobs that yield very low profits, or none at all is the first step in correcting that situation. To know whether a job will be profitable or not, you’ll need a reliable system that lets you accurately calculate your break-even point on each and every proposal, before you accept the work. Explain the process; at this point in the sale you have the opportunity to set the tone for the entire job, and really explain how your company does business. When people understand what to expect and the next steps, it creates a much better relationship with the client and really helps to close business. This is also the time to address what will happen if any changes (for whatever reason) arise on the job, and that it may cost the customer extra money. Doing this will protect you and your business if there is something out of your hands that causes the job to be more expensive, whether it be unseen terrain or an old septic tank. Develop a criteria list for your company which includes who you would work for (persona), the size of the project, the type of project, schedule requirements, company profitability, etc. The list of criteria will help to define which type of projects your company should be competing for. These projects will be better suited to your company’s strengths and give you a competitive advantage.
9) Have a system for handling changes on the fly
Changes on the fly can often be a great way to make a job even more profitable, but only if you’re handling these change requests efficiently and accurately. Tracking all the changes, and ensuring they’re all ending up on your invoices will make or break this as a profitable source of revenue. It is vital that change orders are effectively communicated and approved before the work is actually completed. Many landscapers are afraid to discuss the actual costs involved, but this is incredibly important to communicate. If you’re not having these conversations, you’re likely to end up with a dissatisfied customer or lose profits during a negotiation upon the completion of the project. The change orders should also have a separate payment schedule which requires payment upon completion of the change order, not the entire project.
10) Show your company’s value
You may be promoting your company’s skills and products quite well, but are you also pointing out just how much your work will benefit your customers? Help them to understand the true value and worth of your services, and don’t be afraid to point out how great it will be for them to have beautiful, easy-to-maintain landscaping around their house or business. Sell the long-term value of your products and the expertise in your services, not just the cost.
11) Gather and use references.
After you’ve done the work, ask each satisfied customer for a reference, and keep a list of those references handy to show to prospective clients. It’s a habit that not only motivates you to make sure all of your clients are thrilled with your work, but also helps to develop a great reputation for your company which will ultimately help you to win more jobs.
12) Go after repeat business
Create a system that prompts you to go after return business, especially (but not only) if you’re a maintenance company. When you’re phoning or emailing clients, remember to set up winterizing or spring openings. Make it easy for the customer to pre-book your services – it’s more convenient for them, and it guarantees you’ll have their return business. Set up a basic schedule that your customer can either confirm works for them or request to make changes. A good rule of thumb is to make it easy for people to do business with you.
BONUS tip: When you lose a bid, find out why!
We all wish we could win every piece of business that presents itself, but this is never the reality. Whenever possible, ask the customer why they chose someone else. Finding out and cataloging the reasons why you’ve lost jobs can be almost as valuable to your company as winning a single job. If you can recognize trends in your losses then you can identify ways to improve your bidding process. Once you know in which areas you’re falling short, you can adjust your process to prevent or alter those trends which will help you to turn more proposals into sales. You won’t win every single job, but taking that losing percentage and cutting it in half or even one third can significantly drive up revenue and make your business more profitable.